The site of a now-shuttered timber treatment plant in Hume, Australia, a suburb of Canberra, is the subject of a new investigation concerning polluted groundwater and the government's failure to act in the public interest. The Canberra Times reports that Koppers Wood Products (KWP), a multinational corporation that has since vacated the site, allowed hexavalent chromium to leech into protected groundwater at levels up to 2,430 times the safe limit, while environmental officials at the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) did nothing to stop it.
When KWP first settled the roughly 50-acre plot of land back in the 1980s, which sits near a small tributary that passes through an ecologically protected wetlands area, local residents, environmental protection groups and even some politicians expressed concerns about the plant polluting the area. Both Jerrabomberra Creek and Lake Burley Griffin, two nearby water sources that contain rich ecological diversity, help recharge local aquifers that provide drinking water for nearby residents.
ACT ended up ignoring these concerns and allowing KWP to set up shop at the site anyway, a move that would later prove to be disastrous for the safety of local groundwater. Not only would the KWP plant end up spewing untold amounts of toxic arsenic waste left over from processing, but it would also dump much higher levels of hexavalent chromium, the infamous carcinogen exposed globally by environmental activist Erin Brockovich.
ACT ignores environmental violations by KWP; fails to enforce legal requirements
As it turns out, KWP had been legally bound to submit annual reports to the state government about groundwater test results, a requirement that the company apparently shirked for many years without consequence. For nearly 10 years, KWP reportedly failed to submit these reports, resulting in chrome, arsenic and other toxins leeching into waterways.
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